X Files Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully with David Duchovny as Fox Mulder posing wearing brown suits

The X Files

AUTHOR Anne T Donahue
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Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully stood behind a desk with David Duchovny playing Fox Mulder in the X Files
Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully stood leaning against a filing cabinet with David Duchovny playing Fox Mulder in the X Files
The X Files

Dana Scully’s Guide to Keeping It Real

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In its heyday, I wasn’t allowed to watch The X-Files. Why? I can only assume it had something to do with the theme song (so haunting!), the sexual tension between Mulder and Scully, and the fact that in 1993, I still cried during Unsolved Mysteries. (Though in my defense, they were all true stories, and, hello, they were unsolved.)

So four years later, when The Simpsons paid tribute to The X-Files in the episode “The Springfield Files” (cue: “Good Morning Starshine”), it was too late. I may have basked in the Duchovny cameo, but I still hadn’t watched an episode, and didn’t actually care. That is, until the following year when my best friend saw the movie and I (again!) wasn’t allowed.

This is all very important because these years living X-Files-free prevented me from keeping it real. It wasn’t until the Internet’s nostalgia boom did I recognise the importance of Scully, and had I been privy to her cool, calm nonchalance, I’m sure wouldn’t have said or done anything humiliating between the ages of 12 and 24. How could I have? With only a look, she could make Mulder question why he was even born.

So to apologise for being so late to the party, here’s Scully’s guide to keeping it real. And as such, you can absolutely blame me when you begin wearing business suits and delivering one-liners, also when you choose not to deliver as much as you can in a monotone, arguably irritated voice.

(WARNING: I need to get pretty specific in order to nail down the ways in which we can keep it real, so if you’ve somehow avoided spoilers and the entire internet for the last 20 years you may want to continue to do so by skipping this. Just a heads up.)

Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully stood behind a desk with David Duchovny playing Fox Mulder in the X Files

1. Don’t get over-excited: a simple “oh my God” will suffice

Did you just physically uncover an alien? Walk into an empty apartment? Discover a dead person in the attic? Only three simple words will convey what you’re feeling: “Oh my God.” Allowed anytime, anywhere (and said with only a hint of emotion), you’ll seem eerily in control even when maggots are falling on you from the attic. (That is from an episode, it’s not something that’s actually happened to me.) Not only that, but you obliterate cursing – which, actually, is a downside. Forget I said that.

Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully stood leaning against a filing cabinet with David Duchovny playing Fox Mulder in the X Files

2. Stand by your convictions

Okay, yes. Did Scully eventually “start to believe” when Mulder was kidnapped? She did. But it took seven seasons for her to get to that point, which means for seven seasons (seasons of maggots, and empty apartments, and aliens, and music, and aliens, and dead people, and aliens) she stood her ground. Would you or I? Probably not. Only someone boasting superior self-confidence could maintain her skepticism amidst E.T.-style shenanigans, which explains how she always remained so calm and assured.

The X Files

3. But when you’ve been proven wrong, just go with it

And, well, Scully went on a journey. She may have only officially “believed” following the kidnapping, but between her cancer, the microchip, and her miracle child (with telekinesis!), girlfriend began to question (who wouldn’t?), and she didn’t really care who knew it. She may have been guarded, but she was always more than aware of her own feelings, and why she was feeling them. In hip people terms, she was “owning her s--t” Which explains how she managed to make magic happen with Mulder while at the same time, maintaining her career.

4. Stop broadcasting yourself

TMI, most couples, TMI. Take it from the world of Scully and Mulder, who, despite being together, still kept it relatively low key. Looking back, we didn’t even get a sex scene. And aside from fragments (where were you when you saw a “naked” sleeping Mulder?), X-Files kept their relationship strictly PG. For a career-focused woman like Scully, that makes sense: Scully or not, odds are that if you’re in a secure relationship, you probably aren’t going to flaunt it all over the place. Scully didn’t get to the FBI by gratuitous laboratory room make-outs (though I would absolutely would have watched those). With truth to be found, she had to spend her time looking.

5. As for fashion, know what works

You say “Dana,” I say “blazer.” You say “Scully,” I say “blazer, matching pants, and a dark neutral blouse.” You say, “please stop writing this way,” I say, “fair enough, all you had to do was ask.” The moral of the story is this: Dana Scully knew what fit, and 20 years later, it all still works. Perhaps the biggest part of keeping it real is knowing thyself. Who needs trends when you can wear power suits?

The X-Files is on weekdays at 9am and you can catch up on anything you missed on Sundays from 9am!

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